Monday Night Football
Cincinnati @ Denver
Bengals-Broncos has a 40.5-point total with Denver favored by 3.5. The Broncos’ team total is 22 points. … At the root of Brock Osweiler‘s second-half meltdowns in each of the last three weeks is an inability to adjust to coverage. The Chargers, Raiders, and Steelers each opened Weeks 13-15 in Cover 2 shells. Each changed their coverage in the second half, and Osweiler failed to move the offense. Week 16 opponent Cincinnati also plays a lot of Cover 2, but can adjust to man and Cover 3. This remains a tough matchup from a performance-metrics standpoint; the Bengals rank No. 6 in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA and sixth in the NFL in sacks (38) with the league’s sixth lowest passer rating allowed (79.3). Osweiler is a low-end QB2 for Week 16. … The matchup for Denver’s rushing attack is even more imposing against a Bengals defense that’s held opposing running backs to 392 yards on 121 carries (3.24 YPC) over its last seven games. Despite C.J. Anderson‘s (ankle) Week 15 return, Ronnie Hillman led the Broncos in touches (14) and snap rate (50%) in last Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh. Hillman also lost a fumble, however, and was ineffective on his opportunities. Anderson managed five touches on a 49% playing-time clip. My guess is Anderson will lead the backfield on Monday Night Football, but neither Denver runner can be trusted as more than a low-floor flex play.
Osweiler’s targets over the last month: Demaryius Thomas 45; Emmanuel Sanders 39; Owen Daniels 18; Vernon Davis 17; Hillman 11; Anderson 8; Juwan Thompson 7; Andre Caldwell and Bennie Fowler 6. … Sanders finally busted his Osweiler-induced slump in last Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh, parlaying a team-high 16 targets into a season-best 10-181-1 receiving line. He has another plus matchup versus Bengals LCB Dre Kirkpatrick, who has PFF’s No. 114 cornerback grade among 116 qualifiers. Even as a boom-bust WR2, Sanders has improved odds of booming this week. … Thomas is the lone Denver pass catcher who’s produced consistently with Osweiler under center, recording weekly PPR finishes of WR22, WR19, WR78, WR17, WR18, and WR12 since Osweiler entered the lineup in Week 10. Demaryius will primarily run routes at stingy RCB Pacman Jones, but plays in the slot and on the other side enough that Thomas will get ample opportunities against Kirkpatrick and slot CB Leon Hall. Thomas may lack the Week 16 ceiling of Sanders, but is a higher-floor WR2 play. … The Bengals have given up a league-high 88 catches to tight ends, but I’m done trying to project Davis and Daniels with any level of confidence. Plagued by critical drops, Davis’ snap rate dipped from 75% in Week 14 to 54% last Sunday, with his target total dropping from nine to three. Davis and Daniels may combine for a solid box-score game against Cincinnati. Individually, they’ve proven non-trustworthy streamers.
As 3.5-point dogs in Denver, the Bengals’ team total is 18.5. … A.J. McCarron has spent the last two weeks finishing off a two-score loss and game managing an easy Week 15 win in San Francisco. Things will get much tougher in Denver, where the Broncos return home after blowing a road game in Pittsburgh, and are primed to bounce back. Although McCarron has played better so far than most expected, he has still absorbed seven sacks in roughly seven quarters and has a brutal Monday night matchup. The Broncos are tied for the NFL lead in sacks (47), have allowed the third fewest passing touchdowns (16) in the league, and still rank No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA. In all likelihood, this will be an ugly game for Cincinnati’s offense and an enjoyable one for fantasy owners of Denver’s D/ST. … Rather than play smash-mouth football in last Sunday’s trip to San Francisco, the Bengals stuck with spread formations in which they apparently believe McCarron is most comfortable. Jeremy Hill still out-touched Giovani Bernard 19 to 18, but Gio was the primary back with the game in doubt. It would not be surprising if Gio were utilized as a full-fledged feature back in Denver. The Broncos have held opposing running backs to 3.06 yards per carry and figure to give up little to nothing on the ground against Hill. Bernard is a passable RB2/flex play in PPR leagues this week.
McCarron’s target distribution since he replaced Andy Dalton: Marvin Jones 13; A.J. Green 11; Gio 8; Mohamed Sanu 7; Tyler Kroft 6; Hill 3. … Green’s usage numbers are skewed by his Week 15 back injury, which limited A.J. to three looks on a 59% snap rate in last Sunday’s win over San Francisco. He essentially didn’t play in the game’s second half. Banged-up Green is now likely to match up with Aqib Talib, who held Amari Cooper catch-less on eight targets in Week 14 and limited Martavis Bryant to 87 scoreless yards on 14 targets last week. I’d downgrade Green to a WR2 and perhaps even a high-end WR3 at less than full health in what projects as a low-scoring game. … Sanu and Jones don’t have attractive draws, either, against Chris Harris and Bradley Roby. My guess is we’ll see Harris on Sanu with Roby on Jones. Sanu hasn’t caught more than three passes in a game since Week 5. Jones offers very little upside, but has at least shown a floor with 50-plus receiving yards in three straight games. … As Tyler Eifert (concussion) is unlikely to play against the Broncos, the Bengals will turn back to rookie Kroft as their every-down tight end. Kroft logged 91% of Cincinnati’s Week 15 snaps, parlaying three targets into a 3-31-1 receiving line. Kroft is worth a look as a dart-throw streamer against a Broncos defense giving up the ninth most receptions and eighth most receiving yards to opposing tight ends.
Score Prediction: Broncos 20, Bengals 13
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